Exercise goes far beyond weight loss, but in a world where obesity is so strongly associated with poor health, it’s hard not to make weight loss the primary goal.
A new editorial from three American cardiologists explains why this is such a big mistake.
Even if no visceral fat is burned, new evidence suggests that physical activity can still improve our heart health and fitness, thereby prolonging our lives.
When it comes to improving health, cardiologists – Carl Lavie, Robert Ross and Ian Neeland – argue that simply increasing the amount of physical activity is more important than focusing on losing weight. .
The argument is controversial and will no doubt spark further debate, but the authors clearly lay out their supporting evidence.
Cardiologists focus in particular on a study published in the International Journal of Obesity in August, who found that measures of exercise are a much better predictor of long-term health than a person’s body mass index or body fat content.
Among 116,228 adults, this study found that increasing physical activity essentially eliminated most of the risk of all-cause mortality and death from cardiovascular disease over the next 12 years.
This was true even if an individual’s waist circumference increased over the same period.
“This is a finding entirely consistent with numerous observations demonstrating that exercise is associated with benefits across a wide range of health outcomes in association with no or minimal weight loss,” the authors write. cardiologists in their editorial.
“However, considerable evidence suggests that a monolithic focus on weight loss as the sole determinant of the success of strategies to reduce obesity is unwarranted and, more importantly, eliminates opportunities to focus on other potentially important lifestyle behaviors that are associated with substantial health benefits.”
In other words, doctors can fail patients by focusing too much on weight loss and not enough on decreasing sedentary behaviors.
While the editorial’s authors acknowledge the “considerable and unequivocal evidence” that obesity is a health risk factor, they also point to an “obesity paradox”, where obesity is sometimes associated with lower mortality risk.
In recent years, scientists from various fields have criticized modern medicine’s narrow view of obesity.
Last year, a 2021 review by two exercise physiologists argued for “a weightless strategy” for treating obesity.
Even when weight loss is not achieved, the 2021 review found that exercise can improve most cardiometabolic risk markers associated with obesity. Weight loss, on the other hand, was not consistently associated with lower mortality risk.
In fact, a recent study of 10,000 heart disease patients found that those with better cardiorespiratory fitness were more likely to survive the next 15 years, regardless of their BMI, body fat, or waist circumference.
“The finding that obesity and associated health risks can be significantly reduced by adopting a physically active lifestyle and healthy diet, even in the presence of minimal weight loss, is encouraging. and provides the practitioner and adult with additional overweight/obesity options for successful treatment,” the new editorial asserts.
The authors of the editorial have also looked into the matter. For example, they cite an analysis conducted by Lavie in 2018 that found that changes in physical activity were a better predictor of all-cause mortality and mortality specifically from cardiovascular disease. Weight loss, on the other hand, showed no reduction in risk.
Evidence is mounting to suggest that the relationship between physical activity, heart health and fat loss is not as simple as many of us have been led to believe.
If a human is active enough, some experts believe they should be considered healthy, regardless of weight.
Given how inconsistent weight loss and weight gain can be, these recent findings are empowering individuals.
If you want to feel fit and healthy, you may just need to get moving.
The editorial was published in the International Journal of Obesity.